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Culture: Reviews - Continental drifts across the water; Birmingham International Jazz Festival Various venues.

Byline: Martin Longley

Sometimes, when Broad Street gets too crowded, it's wiser to seek out gigs in hidden quarters. So, I ended up in The Sharman's Cross, Shirley, watching a dedicated band of Parisian 1920s specialists, themselves mostly in their twenties. Jazz Daniel's Puddleurs had been playing all over during the festival's opening weekend, hauling around their sousaphone and augmented washboard, sparkling with their detailed cornet, trombone and saxophone arrangements.

Theirs is a deeply clunking, authentic manifestation of the vintage repertoire, particularly favouring Johnny Dodds and Clarence Williams. Their boisterous Shirley gig climaxed with a gang of elderly ladies parading around the pub with their New Orleans-style umbrellas, spontaneously co-opting a young geezer into this ancient trad ritual. It certainly made for a bizarre sight.

Earlier, I'd briefly sampled the Brindleyplace Euro-cafe set-up, a healthy concept sabotaged by an early evening chill. The Alex Garland Quartet's set took on a faintly pitiful air, but that was no fault of their own, just problematic circumstances and too few people to gain any momentum.

The opposite was the case at the final Django's Castle gig, in La Tasca, off Broad Street. The bustling tapas bar made the best possible setting for this Spanish gypsy jazz trio who have become popular regulars in the last few years. The aroma was definitely wafting from Barcelona, but could have been mistaken for Belgian mussels.

These Reinhardt-obsessives are led by the fleet-picking Pere Soto, who hogs all the flashy solo parts, dazzling the cheering throng with his note-cramming feats.

There was a nod to populism when My Sweet Lord, Smoke On The Water and the Flintstones theme made their surprise appearances, but for most of the Castle's three sets it was hardcore gypsy jazz all the way.

Afterwards, I checked out the middle set by the Alan Barnes Quartet at Ipanema, where the saxophonist was hugging his baritone horn. I didn't stay for the third, 'round midnight set, but it was good to know that such a possibility existed.


Django's Castle supplied gipsy jazz to the tapas crowd and went down a storm
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 9, 2003
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